London: England`s in-form batsman Ian Bell paid rich tributes to his batting mentor Neal Abberley, who died Monday aged 67.
Abberley, who played for Warwickshire from 1964 to 1979 and later became the county club`s batting coach, spotted Bell at the age of nine. Besides Bell, Abberly also mentored Trevor Penney, who is back at Edgbaston in his new role as India`s fielding coach.
Abberley scored 10,082 runs in 261 first-class matches, including three centuries, and a further 2,350 runs in 133 one-day matches.
Even after turning professional, Bell used to constantly look for advice from Abberley. Bell will be wearing a black armband during this week`s third Test against India at Edgbaston, his home ground, as a mark of respect for the man who shaped his career, media reported.
"Whatever I have achieved in cricket is down to Neal Abberley. I first came across him as a nine year-old in county trials in the old indoor school at Edgbaston," Bell was quoted as saying by the daily.
"I`m not sure whether he recognised at that stage that I had the potential to become a good cricketer but from that first day he became a father figure to me," he said.
Bell said that Abberly was quite tough and there were a few bollockings along the way but "all he wanted me to do was to get better and better as a cricketer".
"He knew my game inside out. Wherever I was playing in the world he would watch and spot things. I would get a text from him saying things like: `That looked top drawer` or, `Have you thought about trying this?`
"When I got dropped by England in the West Indies two years ago I spent a lot of time with Neal at Edgbaston. We sat down, had a chat about my game, went back to basics and sorted a few technical issues out.
"So any success I have enjoyed since I got back into the England side is thanks to the work that Neal did with me during that period."
Flags will be at half-mast during the Edgbaston Test for Abberley. The former Warwickshire player braved a deteriorating lung condition for several years and worked part-time for Warwickshire until his death.